Song 106: Pearl Jam, “Corduroy” (1994)

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“Corduroy” isn’t a perfect song, but I think it’s the perfect Pearl Jam song. That is, it’s the Pearl Jammiest. It features Eddie Vedder displaying his various vocal styles, and the band is playing to its strengths, from vicious power chords to Neil Young-esque abstraction.

Pearl Jam seems to have become a band to scoff at only because of their longevity, which I don’t understand. They may not be releasing anything innovative, and certainly nothing on the level of Vs. or Vitalogy, but they’re still making good music. And it’s always nice to have bands around that aren’t concerned with how cool they look (if they did, they probably wouldn’t still be playing classic rock-tinged grunge, though it’s a style that’s come back into favor in the past few years).

I never much cared for Ten. The production, so cold and tinny, always drove me crazy. I’m much more a fan of the next few albums, when their sound became a little more interesting: more low end, less bite. “Corduroy” is my favorite Pearl Jam song, for the reasons described above but also because the melody is so well-constructed. It’s one of those melodies that seems like it existed sometime, somewhere else, because it’s so simple. But it wasn’t.

That’s always been Pearl Jam’s biggest asset: the ability, underneath the (glorious) bombast, to sneak up on you.

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